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Articles of 2006

Hopkins Wins Psy-Ops Skirmish at ESPN Zone

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Buddy McGirt swears that Bernard Hopkins did him a favor when he got under Antonio Tarver’s skin at the tail end of their Tuesday press conference at the ESPN Zone in Times Square.

Because when Hopkins brayed, “Be a man, don’t apologize,” and “You got to be out of your mind, that’s nerves, I know the psychology of nerves,” it definitely got to Tarver.

His eyes bulged a bit. And Hopkins, unequivocally comfortable in his element, bore in.

“He can’t walk the yard,” Hopkins stated. “He’d never leave his cell.”

Tarver’s eyes bulged more and his tongue got a bit tied.

The two men then came together for a photo op, and it looked a bit precarious that this completely professional promotion, which has been almost too business-y, and lacking a needed charge of emotion and passion, would quickly deteriorate into a typical scrum that has become almost the norm in the last 10 years.

“Be Hollywood, that’s you,” said Hopkins.

“I ain’t going to hit him unless I get paid,” Graterford Penitentiary’s most notable alumnus promised.

Hopkins smiled, his eyes beaming a gleam that burns bright when he’s winning a psy-op showdown. Tarver looked unnerved. His ever-present grin vanished in a blink.

But Buddy’s his trainer, and of course has to know him better. So when Buddy says that Hopkins’ Oz-talkin’ rant helped his man’s cause, I’ll strongly consider the trainer’s stance. But Tarver looked frustrated, like he was slightly out of his league as he went to toe-to-toe in debate with Bernard, who gets off on the verbal pugilism as much (or more than?) the fistic variety.

“Bernard’s plan is going to backfire,” McGirt said as Tarver processed the beef for the assembled media for another 25 minutes, long after Hopkins had left the room, and departed to do his own thing.

McGirt provided a historical parallel that girded his wisdom. “I knew Hopkins was going to win against Trinidad,” he said, “when they stood face-to-face at the weigh in and Trinidad took a step back. Antonio didn’t budge.”

True enough. He didn’t budge.

But Hopkins got under his skin.

Like cayenne pepper sauce, his words seeped into Tarver’s head,  got him sweating a bit. It got him pissed off. It got him thinking, not about his gameplan and conserving needed energy for the Saturday beef, but about Hopkins’ punkass tendencies, which have been mothballed for half a year.

Tarver dismissed the prison references, but there’s a proven method to Hopkins’ smack talk. He earns cred points with his pen stint and the broadside at Tarver, saying he’d be a wallflower in the joint, someone who’d be too timid to leave his cell, earned him the win at the press conference.

McGirt whispered in Tarver’s ear. Don’t let him get under your skin, the handler counseled.

F-that, Tarver told the trainer.

When Tarver unleashed the eff bomb, McGirt said, he further knew that his fighter wasn’t going to be underminded by Oz talk.

“Antonio doesn’t cuss,” McGirt said. “When he starts cussing, it’s smoke in the city.”

The rest of the yapfest was relatively uneventful. Tarver’s $250,000 wager that he wouldn’t let Hopkins get out of the fifth round was referenced. “I hope I don’t send him to bankruptcy,” Hopkins cracked.

Hopkins made it clear that if we were to put his resume and Tarver’s together, and compare and contrast, it would be no contest. “You’re judged by that,” he said. “Anybody can talk a good game. Your record reflects your credibility.”

Hopkins closed his set with a zinger that drew the biggest laugh of the show. “Before you spend your mortgage money you better look at the resumes, then place your bets…only at the Borgata,” he said.

Promoter Joe DeGuardia feels strongly that the two graybeard pros are going to get into rock ‘em sock ‘em robots mode early on, and it will bring back memories of Hagler/Hearns. Tarver echoed that sentiment when he got to the dais. “Bernard Hopkins won’t see the sixth round,” he promised. “He will be history, it won’t be history. It’s my legacy. You ain’t in my league.”

And that’s when Hopkins started the cayenne chatter that made Tarver hot.

But if Tarver has more mileage on his motor Saturday, if his comfort level at 175 is a difference maker, then this press conference and Hopkins’ masterful verbal pugilism won’t even be a footnote…

SPEEDBAG

This cracks me up. Boxers with bodyguards. What’s up with that?

So after Hopkins and Tarver finished their pose-off, and Hopkins jetted, I looked for other newsmakers to interrogate. Oscar was quickly surrounded by the hordes, and there wasn’t an inch of free space around him, as he softly spoke to inquiries about his future.

So I stood behind him and craned my neck to make out his sharing. A bulky fellow, late 40s, with Village People mustache, went into protection mode, put out his right arm and redirected me away from the Golden Boy. “Don’t stand behind him,” the hired muscle said, menace fairly dripping off his mustache.

Now, apart from my wife, I’m not a big fan of being touched. If you are going to touch me, please be PC, and ask me first. The bulky goon didn’t ask…

I flared up, internally, but since the terms of my probation prohibit me from engaging in any altercation not sanctioned by a state athletic commission, I said nothing, and moved to another vantage point away from the goon. But it got me thinking.

First, why does a man with lethal hands need a bodyguard? Maybe there’s been a stalking threat that I’m not aware of. Then there’s a valid reasoning for hiring a goon…

But since it was clear that I was working press, and have no interest  in hooking up with ODLH, I am at a loss to explain Stache’s action. Was he thinking I was a disgruntled PPV patron who thought Oscar quit against Bernard, and I was going to register my dismay by gutting ODLH with my ballpoint pen?

So word to Stachey – my wife can touch without an invite, everyone else asks…Earn your keep putting your hand on some overeager autograph hound or something, not a pressman trying to do his job, OK?

—Arum ranted during a recent conference call about HBO stepping into his turf, and rudely booking a promotion on a day he said he had dibs on, June 10. A reporter asked Bob what HBO’s motivation was? Ask them, Arum said. So I asked one HBO exec about the dueling date… The suit explained that from HBO’s perspective, Arum most certainly did not have ownership of the June 10 date.

Miguel Cotto was set to fight Gianluca Branco on March 4, and to HBO’s understanding, Arum was going to match Cotto with Jose Luis Castillo, if Castillo were to defeat Diego Corrales in February.

But then word came on Jan. 13 that Corrales/Castillo III was postponed, because Corrales suffered a rib injury.

So, the HBO exec said, Arum didn’t know what he would do with Cotto regarding a viable opponent. Arum, meanwhile, thought the June 10 date at MSG would be held for him, and whatever match he could make. But, the HBO man said, the network was holding June 10 for themselves, not for Arum.

So HBO went ahead and hashed out the Tarver/Hopkins promotion. Richard Schaefer was in NY in or around Feb. 1 trying to get everyone on the same page for that bout. Word that bout was a go leaked out on or around Feb. 9.

On March 2nd, Arum released word that he had finalized a deal for a June 10 for Cotto, against Paulie Malignaggi. The promoter, however, stubbornly clung to the June 10 date and rather than taking the largest licensing fee HBO had ever handed him, and putting on an HBO show on Friday, June 9, he dug in his heels, and wouldn’t budge.

Bottom line, there was a classic failure to communicate. Hey, like Tony told Phil “The Shah of Iran” Leotardo on Sunday, there’s more than enough to go around. I think both promotions will do well, and though there will be some cannibalizing, everyone will make some dough. And of course, if it makes sense down the road, Arum and HBO will focus on business, and the scars from this episode will fade.

Hey, second thought, I think I have hit on a true heel in this scenario. Let’s blame it on Castillo!

(To see photos of the final pre-fight skirmish between Tarver and Hopkins)

Articles of 2006

Peter/Toney Ii: Peter Has The Brutal Punch

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Samuel Peter claims he has dynamites in my two hands?

Heavyweight contenders Samuel “The Nigerian Nightmare” Peter and James Lights Out? Toney get it on a second time this Saturday from the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Fla. (Showtime).

The hard-slugging Peter, unlike Toney, is one of those strong, silent types notorious for letting their fists to the talking one the opening bell sounds, but the Nigeria Nightmare is as confident as ever and determined to turn Lights Out’s lights out for good.

I have got dynamites in my two hands,? said Peter, according the Lagos, Nigeria Vanguard, and I will crush James Toney once and for all. The Toney camp made the mistake of their lives by protesting and seeking a rematch. I am ready to teach him a bitter lesson.?

Sam Peter walked away with the W for Peter/Toney I at the Staples Center in LA last September, but it was by disputed split decision a verdict so disputed, there was even a dispute about the dispute which forced the WBC’s hand into mandating Saturday’s rematch.

Samuel Peter is the biggest thing to hit African boxing since Ghanaian superstar Azumah Nelson rocked the feather and junior welterweight divisions. The President of the Nigeria Boxing Board of Control, Prince Olaide Adeboye, admitted, according to allAfrica.com, We are rooting for Samuel Peter, of course. He is one boy we believe in to bring back the country’s lost glory in professional boxing. I am personally making arrangement to be at the ringside to see him fight Toney again. I was at the first fight in Los Angeles in September.

Peter has the brutal punch, and to me he was the clear winner of the first fight. But the WBC Board of Governors, of which I am a member, voted 21-10 for a rematch. There was nothing those of us Africans on the board could do in the circumstances. But I believe Peter will confirm he is better than Toney and will then go ahead to meet the champion and claim the belt for Nigeria and Africa.?

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Articles of 2006

The Sweet Science P4P Rankings for Asia

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There are claims that boxing is dying. Hogwash. The heavyweight division isn’t the only division in boxing and 2007 promises to be a banner year in boxing; especially for boxers hailing from Asia.

While Asia isn’t Vegas or Atlantic City, it is a region packed of diamonds in the rough; undiscovered gems and potential superstars who wait for their moment in the sun.

The Sweet Science P4P Rankings – Asia

1) Manny Pacquiao – There’s no way to dispute Pacquiao is the best fighter in Asia, if not all of boxing. He’s exciting, he wins with Je Ne Sais Quois and is definitely “the man” in boxing.

2) Pongsaklek Wonjongkam – Although his competition leaves much to be desired, his longevity and skills are undeniable. He is currently Thailand’s only world champion and is undefeated in ten years. Need I say more?

3) Chris John – A victory over Juan Manuel Marquez, however controversial, shows he belongs at the top of the heap. He easily outpointed Renan Acosta to close out 2006 and should have no trouble defending against Jose Rojas in February. A fight with Pacquiao would not be a good move on his part but a rematch with Marquez would not hurt – especially if he defeats the Mexican again.

4) Hozumi Hasegawa – Hidden away in Japan, Hasegawa is a sharp punching southpaw who put former champion Veeraphol Sahaprom to sleep. He recently bested Genaro Garcia and his herky-jerky style will give fits to any one who steps in the ring with him.

5) Masomori Tokuyama – Tokuyama has never shied away from a good fight and although he only fought once in 2006 (UD12 Jose Navarro), he ledger shows wins over Katsushige Kawashima (twice), Gerry Penalosa (twice) and In Jin Chi (twice). A fight with Hozumi Hasegawa is a distinct possibility in 2007.

6) Nobuo Nashiro – With only seven fights under his belt he took on WBA champion Martin Castillo – and defeated him. Although he’s only fought a total of nine fights, nearly all have been against quality opposition. A victory in a rematch with Castillo would cement his claim as the king of the 115-pound division.

7) Yukata Niida – This light-hitting minimumweight defended his title twice in 2006, winning a technical decision against unbeaten Eriberto Gejon (Tech Win 10) and the other on points over Ronald Barrera (W 12). Scheduled to meet Katsunari Takayama early next year – the best has yet to come for this WBA belt holder.

8) In Jin Chi – Won back the title he lost to Takashi Koshimoto in January from Rudolfo Lopez. While there’s little uncertainty to his skills, at thirty-three, 2007 may provide some insight as to just how much he has left.

9) Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai –Sor Nonthachai is an exciting, top-shelf fighter with an iron chin. Has no trouble making mincemeat of mid-level opposition and deserves a title shot in 2007. Time is running out.

10) Rey Bautista – He’s young, relatively inexperienced in big-time boxing, but will continue to shine in 2007. One of the better prospects in boxing, he should snag a title in 2007.

Asian Fighters Ranked in Ring Magazine

Pound for Pound:

Manny Pacquiao (Philippines): #2

Jr. Lightweight

Manny Pacquiao (Philippines): #1
Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai: #9

Featherweight

Chris John (Indonesia) #1
In Jin Chi (Korea) #3
Takashi Koshimoto (Japan) #5
Hioyuki Enoki (Japan) #7

Jr. Featherweight

Somsak Sithchatchawal (Thailand) #4

Bantamweight

Hozumi Hasegawa (Japan) #2
Veeraphol Sahaprom (Japan) #3
Ratanachai Sor Vorapin (Thailand) #6
Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym (Thailand) #10

Jr. Bantamweight

Nobuo Nashiro (Japan) #1
Katsushige Kawashima (Japan) #7
Pramuansak Phosuwan (Thailand) #10

Flyweight

Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (Thailand) #1
Takefumi Sakata (Japan) #7
Daisuke Naito (Japan) #10

Jr. Flyweight

Koki Kameda (Japan) #1

Minimumweight

Yukata Naiida (Japan) #2
Eagle Kyowa (Japan/Thai) #4
Katsunari Takayama (Japan) #5
Rodel Mayol (Philippines) #7

Boxing in Thailand

There’s no shortage of boxers in Thailand. With a huge pool of Muay Thai fighters to draw from and several talented amateur boxing prospects turning pro after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Thailand seems destined to remain a boxing powerhouse in Asia.

The country is known for having tough, determined and disciplined fighters who give their all whenever the step in to the ring. However, consistently losing while fighting abroad and padding their records with no-hopers has done nothing to enhance their reputation.

Whether because of a lack of marketability, a lack of funds or their unwillingness to travel abroad, the vast majority of boxers from Thailand remain a mystery to fans in the west. If anything though, the boxing scene involving Thai fighters will be active. In fact, it’s one of the most active in the world; since 2000, the number of fights has nearly doubled in the country.

The Sweet Science P4P Rankings – Thailand – August 2006

1) Pongsaklek Wonjongkam
2) Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym
3) Somsak Sithchatchawal
4) Wandee Singwancha
5) Sirimongkol Singwancha
6) Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai
7) Veeraphol Sahaprom
8) Pramuansak Phosuwan
9) Terdsak Jandaeng
10) Oleydong Sithamerchai

Current Sweet Science P4P Rankings – Thailand

1) Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (Flyweight) – Definitely the top dog in Thailand

2) Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai (Super Lightweight) – He’s a seasoned fighter who has proven himself in the big-time. He’s one Thai who can fight outside of Asia. He has an abundance of skills and one-punch power. His overall ability and ease in dispatching anyone other than championship caliber get him the runners-up spot.

3) Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym (Super Bantamweight) – After losing to Vladimir Sidorenko he’s bounced back. He’s young, he can punch, but the former interim champion needs to prove himself against a name fighter.

4) Somsak Sithchatchawal (Super Bantamweight) – Was his win over Monshipour a fluke or was Celestino Caballero just that good? Did Sithchatchawal catch Monshipour at the right time and can he rebound from the devastating loss? The jury is still out.

5) Wandee Singwancha (Flyweight) – He doesn’t have much of a punch which will be his downfall in the end. He can box, as was evidenced in his recent victory over Juanito Rubillar, but this won’t be enough. He can no longer make the Jr. Flyweight limit and with no punch he’ll have a hard time competing against the “big boys.” Although he’s now rated second by the WBC, he doesn’t deserve to be.

5) Sirimongkol Singwancha (Super Lightweight) – Get this guy a fight. He’s better than Jose Armando Santa Cruz and would have beat up Inada had the fight taken place. He’ll fight anyone but his biggest obstacle is staying motivated fighting tomato cans in Thailand. Like many Thais, he needs a fight against a name opponent.
6) Wandee Singwancha (Flyweight) – He doesn’t have much of a punch which will be his downfall in the end. He can box, as was evidenced in his recent victory over Juanito Rubillar, but this won’t be enough. He can no longer make the Jr. Flyweight limit and with no punch he’ll have a hard time competing against the “big boys.” Although he’s now rated second by the WBC, he doesn’t deserve to be.

7) Pramuansak Phosuwan (Super Flyweight) – A genuine tough guy. Always calm and focused no matter how heated the battle. But at thirty-eight, he’ll be in trouble should he fight one of the division’s elite.
8) Veeraphol Sahaprom (Bantamweight) – Will be lucky to get another crack at the title. Although he has a puncher’s chance of winning a belt, that’s about all he has left at this point. A third shot at Hasegawa is unlikely.

9) Oleydong Sithamerchai (Minimumweight) – He’s fought better than the usual opponents faced by Thais at his level and he moves up one spot with the departure of Terdsak Jandaeng. He lacks the punch and is in the wrong division to become a superstar. He’ll need to defeat a name opponent to convince me.

10) Saenghiran Lookbanyai / Napapol Kittisakchokchai (Super Bantamweight) – These two square-off in early March, supposedly to see who deserves a shot at Israel Vasquez. Kittisakchokchai has the edge in experience but some feel Lookbanyai has the edge in heart and is the favorite.

Neither has defeated a top twenty fighter and yet are ranked number one and two respectively in the WBC’s world.

In Kittisakchokchoi’s lone shot at the big-time, he was TKO’d in 10 by Oscar Larios. His dreadful performance against Larios and lack of quality opposition leads me to believe Saenghiran might have more of a shot at beating him than some suspect. Regardless, neither of them lasts longer than six rounds with Israel Vasquez.

Honorable Mention: Wethya Sakmuangklang, Denkaosan Kaovichit, Devid Lookmahanak, Nethra Sasiprapa, Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo, Pornsawan Kratingdaenggym

Thai Fighters Ranked in Ring Magazine

Pongsaklek Wonjongkam: #1 Flyweight
Pramuansak Phosuwan: #10 Jr. Bantamweight
Veeraphol Sahaprom: #3 Bantamweight
Ratanachai Sor Vorapin: #6 Bantamweight
Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym: #10 Bantamweight
Somsak Sithchatchawal: #3 Jr. Featherweight
Yodsanan Sor Nanthachai: #9 Lightweight

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Articles of 2006

Iceman Stops Tito Ortiz Win Streak

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LAS VEGAS—UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck “Iceman” Liddell’s fists proved too much for Huntington Beach’s Tito Ortiz who was stopped in the third round before a sold out crowd at the MGM Garden Arena on Saturday.

The punching machine Liddell (20-3, 13 KOs) repeated his victory in UFC 66 over the much-improved grappler Ortiz who has improved his punching and blocking. Ortiz was trying to avenge his loss of April 2004.

Despite all the new weapons displayed by Ortiz it wasn’t enough as Liddell pummeled the former champion and retained his title with a technical knockout at 3:59 of the third round. Referee Mario Yamasaki stopped the bout.

“This was the most satisfying victory of my career,” said Liddell, 36, of Santa Barbara. “Tito came back real tough.”

Ortiz (15-5, 8 KOs), a former wrestler, worked on his boxing technique knowing he would need it against the former boxer Liddell. But Liddell’s experience allowed him to find the right moment to pounce on Ortiz.

“I had him hurt, I just kept throwing punches,” said Liddell who also knocked down Ortiz in the first round with a left hook.

Ortiz was gracious in defeat.

“Chuck is the best fighter Pound for Pound in the (mixed martial arts) world,” said Ortiz, 31, who suffered a gash on the side of his left eye from a punch. “I’m disgusted by myself. I let my fans down.”

Other bouts

Underdog Keith Jardine (12-3-1) knocked out Forrest Griffin (13-4) at 4:41 of the first round in their light heavyweight showdown. A right uppercut followed by a left hook wobbled Griffin who was sent to the floor by a barrage of punches. On the ground Jardine landed right after right until referee John McCarthy stopped the fight for a technical knockout.

“I couldn’t believe he was hurt,” said Jardine about Griffin who is known for his resiliency. “I was so nervous coming into this fight, but now I know I belong here.”

Canada’s Jason McDonald (18-7) choked out Chris Leben (15-3) in a middleweight bout that was up for grabs. Though Leben seemed to control the fight with stunning left hands, once the fight went to the ground McDonald managed a chokehold at 4:03 of the second round. Referee Steve Mazagatti saw Leben was unconscious and stopped the fight.

Former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski (12-5) caught Brazil’s Mario Cruz (2-2) with a sneak right hand while both were tangled on the ground. Then the Belarusian pummeled Cruz until referee Herb Dean stopped the fight at 3:15 of the first round.

Third season winner of the Ultimate Fighter television reality season Michael Bisping (12-0) of Great Britain won by technical knockout over Eric Shafer (9-2-2) at 4:29 of the first round. A knee knocked Shafer groggy then Bisping knocked him to the ground and pounded him. Referee Mario Yamasaki stopped the bludgeoning.

Thiago Alves (16-4) caught Peru’s Tony De Souza (15-5) with a knee as he attempted to dive for his legs in a welterweight contest. After that it was pretty much over as Alves pummeled De Souza at 1:10 of the second round forcing referee John McCarthy to halt the bout.

Gabriel Gonzago (7-1) proved too strong for Carmelo Marrero (6-1) in a heavyweight bout. At 3:22 of the first round Gonzago of Massachusetts manipulated his way into arm bar forcing Pennsylvania’s Marrero to tap out.

Japan’s Yushin Okami (19-3) pounded Georgia’s Rory Singer (11-6) into submission at 4:03 of the third round of a middleweight bout. Okami seemed the more-rounded fighter with effective kicks to the head and more accurate punching.

Christian Wellisch (8-2) jumped to a quick start with an accurate left hook that rattled Australia’s Anthony Perosh (5-3) in a heavyweight bout. During the first round it seemed the Sacramento fighter might end the fight but the Aussie hung tough. Wellisch won by unanimous decision.

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